They had to be in that Boylston Street crowd on Marathon Day, up against the barricade, cheering passing runners. It is part of what bound the Richard family to Boston. The horror that followed, and their quiet courage in the face of it, will bind Boston’s hearts to theirs, forever.
bY DAVID ABEL | GLOBE STAFF | APRIL 13, 2014
HE WAS WEARY AND HOARSE, the ringing in his ears hard to bear.
When he stood at the head of his dining room table to introduce himself, he looked at his carefully chosen guests and faltered for a long moment.
“I’m Bill Richard, and I’m . . . ”
He struggled for composure. A friend gently intervened: “You’re the dad.”
He looked down, eyes filling, and then at last found the words that had become so difficult to say since his family stood by the barricades on Boylston Street: “I’m Martin’s dad.”
As he welcomed family, friends, and others who knew his 8-year-old son to his home in Dorchester, Bill passed around a piece of paper that ended with a question printed three times in capital letters.
“What do we want to accomplish?”
Seven months after what he came to call “the event,” Bill and his wife, Denise, were now grappling with how to glean some meaning out of their void, some way to honor their son, the only child among the three who died on Marathon day.
Bill was still recovering from a second operation to repair his blown eardrums, while Denise was learning to adapt to being blind in her right eye. Neither had much time for their own care, so pressing were the constant medical appointments for Jane, their 7-year-old daughter, who lost her left leg and was still learning to walk with a prosthesis. They also remained concerned about their older son, Henry, who at age 11 escaped the shrapnel but had to live with what he witnessed.
It was the week before Thanksgiving, another looming milestone as they learned how to live on as a family of four, to use one less plate for dinner.
And it was still hard, even this long after the bombings, to contemplate sharing their story beyond their closest friends and relatives. No family lost or suffered more that day. No family was more determined to defend their need for privacy against the compassionate attention of the city, indeed the world. They deflected all interview requests until, in late autumn, they agreed to meet with the Globe.
But on this November night the Richards found themselves in something more like a familiar role. After years of organizing neighborhood cleanups, turkey fries, ice cream socials, pumpkin carvings, fund-raisers, and local revitalization projects, they were again mulling how to give back to the community.
This time it would be far more personal. They hoped to start a foundation to build a lasting legacy for Martin, a boy who spoke out for fairness on ball fields and for peace in the streets.
Through the night, they debated whether to raise money to help amputees, build ballparks, or support libraries, whether to stay local or go national. The mission, they decided, should focus on the Martin who loved sports, memorized lines from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and once marched in an antiviolence rally with a poster whose message had become his icon: “No more hurting people — Peace.”
“I feel that the path has been opened with him holding that sign,” Bill said.
“It’s his,” Father Sean Connor, the Richards’ former pastor, agreed.“Claim it.” Others at the table, including Martin’s teachers, counseled the Richards to keep the mission broad enough so Jane and Henry could shape it when they were older.
In a room filled with gifts sent by strangers from around the world — quilts, flags, jerseys, stuffed animals — the discussion turned to what distinguished the Richards from others who had suffered a great tragedy, and how, their loss having occurred in such a public way, they would have to relive their experience every April.
“It’s unfortunate that Martin didn’t die in a car accident on a random night,” Bill said. “Martin died at the Boston Marathon. The Marathon is going to happen every year, and it’s going to be public, whether we like it or not.”
So they would have to choose whether to embrace or escape it.
“We’re trying to be ready for April,” said Bill, noting that the upcoming Marathon would fall on his birthday.
Would they go? It was a question they weren’t ready to answer. The answer would depend on how Jane and Henry felt about it.
“You’re all here because we may decide we just want to get out of Dodge,” Bill told his guests.
But they were already feeling the pressure.
“When the door’s open,’’ Bill said, “you feel like you need to go through it.”
JESSICA RINALDI/GLOBE STAFF
DEVASTATED BY THE ATTACK: Denise Richard lingered in the doorway as her son Henry headed off to school. The Richards have struggled with the death of Martin and their own injuries over the past year.
Last April, before everything changed, the return of spring meant more time for Martin to practice layups and slap shots in his family’s driveway, where he would drop his backpack after school and spend hours playing.
Jane went from piano lessons to chorus practice to Irish step dancing classes, where she was known for her giddy enthusiasm and diligence in practicing her favorite dance, the reel.
Henry focused on keeping his grades high enough to stay on the honor roll and worked with a tutor to prepare for Boston Latin School’s challenging entrance exam.
For Bill and Denise, both 43, there weren’t enough hours in the day. Regimented and focused on work, Bill was constantly meeting with clients and overseeing projects for the small environmental services company in Needham he had spent years helping to run. Denise, often nose deep in a book and with a deep appreciation for irony, was organizing themed story-times as a librarian at the nearby Neighborhood House Charter School, where Martin was in the third grade and Jane was two years behind.
They were a family in constant motion, a whirlwind of pickups and drop-offs, sleepovers and birthday parties, homework, community projects, coaching, and church. Their foyer was filled with cleats, hockey sticks, and baseball gloves, the walls of their house decorated with the children’s artwork and school presentations.
THE RICHARD FAMILY
For years, the Richards held a big party at their home in Dorchester on Christmas Eve. Here in 2011, Denise and Jane posed with Bill and sons Martin (center) and Henry. All were in the blast zone of the second bomb near the Marathon finish line on Boylston Street.
A steady flow of neighbors stopped by, as they always did. Bill and Denise were seen as pillars in their corner of Dorchester. Bill spent years as board president of the St. Mark’s Area Main Street group, and Denise served as secretary of the Ashmont Adams Neighborhood Association. The couple had become well known for their efforts to raise money to restore the old Peabody Square clock and renovate the Ashmont T station, among other projects.
In the days before school vacation, it was Silly Week at school, and Jane dressed up as Jane Goodall, with binoculars made of toilet paper rolls, and Martin went as Dustin Pedroia, his hero. Henry and Martin covered themselves in mud in a neighbor’s yard and went to scare Jane and her friends, a typical prank. The next morning, the kids competed in the Boston Athletic Association’s annual youth relay race on Boylston Street, a prelude to the Marathon, which they had done for years. Martin took the short sprints so seriously he’d hold his fingers taut — an aerodynamic edge.
On Sunday, the day before Patriots Day, Martin had baseball and street hockey. Denise and a friend took a deli platter to a neighbor whose mother had died. Bill opened a Sam Adams and settled in for a lazy day watching the Masters golf tournament. But then Martin wandered over and peered at him, his brown eyes wide. The sun had come out, and he wanted to toss a ball with his dad. After heavy persuasion, Bill relented. He rounded up a group, including Jane and Henry, and spent the afternoon playing pickle and baseball in Hemenway Park, where Martin complained if the adults let the kids win.
That night, after pizza, Martin and a friend at the house were pleading for a sleepover, but Bill and Denise were tired and the family had plans the next morning. Martin and Denise walked him home. It was a glimmering night, with the stars unusually bright, and they lingered on the way back, admiring the ethereal view.
Martin was studying the solar system and always looking for Venus. In his father’s fleece, the sleeves way too long, he held Denise’s hand as they walked back, leaning into his mother. “Is that the Milky Way?” he asked.
In the years after they met at a keg party at Bridgewater State College, the young couple made a tradition of joining the throngs at Fenway Park who strolled to the Back Bay on Patriots Day to watch the final leg of the Boston Marathon.
After their children were born, the Richards carried on the ritual of cheering on the runners, though they would spend more time in ice cream shops than bars. When they got older, their kids — all fledgling runners — marveled at the elite competitors and cheered on the stragglers, while Bill and Denise relished being part of the massive crowds, which made them and the city feel so alive.
Bill and Denise Richard made a tradition of watching the Marathon near the finish line. As the kids got older, they participated in the weekend’s events, such as the Boston Athletic Association relay race that Martin ran the Saturday before in 2013.
Last April, however, they thought it might be time to try something new. The Amtrak Downeaster ran up to Portland, which Martin, especially, thought would be fun. The weather was just right, and it would be a nice escape over school vacation. But in the end, Bill had too much work and couldn’t take off more than Monday.
So on the morning of the Marathon, there was a tacit understanding they would head downtown. Martin was up early shooting hoops and playing hockey behind the house, while Bill and Denise scrambled to get everyone ready. After breakfast, they packed pretzels, peanut butter sandwiches, apples, and water, and offered advice on what to wear. Jane, who could sometimes dress outlandishly, was testing their patience as she searched fruitlessly for her prized Clifden Academy of Irish Dance jacket.
They didn’t leave the house until after 10, and Bill was anxious to get to their regular spot on Hereford Street, worried they might miss the leaders before they turned onto Boylston. They were cutting it close.
“C’mon — let’s go,” he said, as he hurried to the subway.
About a half-hour later, when they arrived at the station beneath Boston Common, Bill was ready to speedwalk. But someone had to go to the bathroom, and then everyone did.
Finally on their way again, Bill and Henry huffed ahead of the others through the Public Garden and down Commonwealth Avenue, more than a mile, until they made it to Hereford and realized they were too late. They had just missed the lead runners.
But they were there, and happy to be. The kids wormed their way through the crowds for a better view by the barriers. They cheered for strangers heaving up the final hill, a gentle slope that feels like a mountain to many haggard runners. When they had had enough, Martin and Jane began playing a jumping game on a nearby stoop, until Jane got tired and fell asleep while leaning on Bill.
Afterward, Martin began egging on his parents for ice cream. “Soon, soon,” they responded, as they craned to watch more runners surging through the final mile.
Eventually, they gave in. They planned to be there for the afternoon — Denise was on her iPhone, tracking friends who were running — and they had to pace the kids.
So the family made their way down Newbury Street, high-fiving foil-caped runners on the way. When they made it to Ben & Jerry’s, Martin smeared Moose Tracks on his face, laughed, and gave his family a big thumbs up. They lucked out, got a table inside, and Henry and Jane lingered over their black raspberry and cookie dough.
With the kids sugared up and content, Bill and Denise ushered them to Boylston Street. The crowds remained dense as many of the charity runners began slogging in after 2 p.m., and the Richards strolled along the sidewalk until they spied a slight ebb in spectators by the Forum restaurant.
A couple was standing next to the barricades, but they let the kids in front of them. “Not you,” they joked with Bill and Denise, considerably taller.
With the sun peeking in and out of the clouds, they searched for familiar faces as runners streamed past. At one point, between high-fiving runners, Martin asked his parents how old he had to be to run the Marathon.
Denise looked at her phone, refreshed the website with the tracking information, and couldn’t believe it. They had just missed one of their friends finish. It was 2:49.
Maybe it’s time to wrap it up, Bill thought.
Suddenly, in the distance, they heard a deep boom and felt the ground shake. They looked to the left and saw a large plume of smoke rise a block away, near the finish line.
A utility explosion, Bill thought. Denise was staring into the distance, trying to make sense of what happened. The kids were silent, more surprised than frightened.
Someone in the crowd urged everyone to clear the sidewalk. “Get in the street,” the person yelled.
Bill was standing behind Martin and Jane, with Denise and Henry a few feet away. They converged as the crowds pressed toward the barricades.
“We should go,” Bill told Denise, as Henry retreated behind her.
Then they heard a young woman shriek “Oh, my God,” and Bill realized it might be something other than a mishap in a manhole. He began to jump the barricade and planned to hoist the kids over. He wanted everyone out of there quickly.
If this isn’t a utility explosion, he said to himself, there might be another.
Minutes later, in an ambulance racing to Boston Children’s Hospital, Bill crouched between Jane and Henry, holding their hands.
They all reeked of gunpowder.
Henry had bits of shrapnel — mainly nails — in his fleece, minor burns on his legs, and trouble hearing. He was quiet and his head throbbed. Jane was in a state of shock and had burns and shrapnel all over her body. Her hair was singed. When a paramedic asked her to sit up, she saw that her left leg, below the knee, was gone. She started to scream.
Bill had second- and third-degree burns on both legs and a ball bearing lodged deep in his left shin. Blood covered his shredded jeans. His sneakers were torn. He could hear only faintly.
His mind filled with images too hard to bear. He felt dazed, and as the ambulance sped through the city, he repeated to himself: It happened. It happened.
When the ambulance arrived at Children’s, doctors and nurses were waiting in their surgical scrubs. They had been alerted that a young girl with severe injuries was coming, and they wheeled Jane on a stretcher to the emergency room as Bill and Henry followed on foot.
Bill’s cellphone rang with an unknown number. It was Denise. She was calling from a phone at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where paramedics had brought her. She told him what he already knew in his gut, that their son was gone. There was a pause, and then, “I know.” From her stretcher, Jane was talking while a medical team began to treat her. “Where’s Martin?” she said, loud enough for Denise to hear. “Where’s Martin?”
Afterward, Bill felt obliged to pull Henry aside in a nearby corridor. He looked at his distraught son and explained that Martin had been hurt really badly, that he didn’t make it.
“Jane and Mom are OK, and we’re going to be OK,” he tried to assure Henry, who was now in tears.
While they waited for Jane to get out of surgery — doctors spent hours cleaning and closing her wounds, performing blood transfusions, and removing the shrapnel that scarred nearly every part of her body — Bill made several calls.
His first was to John Hernandez, his sister’s husband, who wasn’t picking up because he was squabbling with his accountant. Finally, Bill texted him: “I need to talk to you now.”
Bill also called Erin O’Brien, his sister-in-law, who had been watching the Marathon on Boylston Street with her 4-year-old daughter but left shortly before the attack. “Are you OK?” he asked, as she pulled into her driveway. Yes, she said, and you?
“No, we’re not,” Bill said.
John and his wife, Michelle, would be the first of many family and friends to drop everything and speed to the Richards’ side. After leaving their kids with friends and talking their way through a series of police checkpoints, they found Henry in the emergency room, where there were bloody bandages everywhere. There was fear and confusion in his eyes.
Bill was in an examination room nearby, pleading with a doctor to remove the shrapnel from his leg, but refusing to be sedated. “You’re not putting me under,” he said, an edge now clear in his voice. Too many decisions lay ahead to be unconscious. The doctor couldn’t reach the embedded ball bearing without proper anesthesia, so it would have to wait.
Father Sean, who was also a longtime police chaplain, heard the news from several parishioners at Saint Ann’s, where many in his flock are officers, nurses, and firefighters. He and others in the police department’s family assistance unit drove from the finish line to Beth Israel, where they found Erin and her husband, Sean. Denise was in surgery, with doctors laboring to remove a large ball bearing from her right eye.
Then Father Sean went to find Bill at Children’s. Rarely at a loss for words, he wondered as he walked into the emergency room: What do you say to a man whose world had suddenly shattered?
When he found Bill, the normally well-groomed man was wearing scrubs and hospital socks, the ends of his graying hair brittle and burnt. They embraced in a long, silent hug. “I’m sorry,” the pastor said. “I’m sorry.”
Before the surgeons moved Jane into a recovery room, an FBI agent and a Boston police officer questioned Bill in a private room. Did he notice anything? What did he remember? Could he provide a timeline?
He had little to offer.
When the doctors operating on Jane emerged from surgery and assured Bill that Jane was stable and that she would remain in a medically induced coma for a prolonged period, he knew he had to go see Denise.
As he rode an elevator late that night to a surgical unit on the fifth floor of Beth Israel, Bill held Henry tight and steeled himself for what they would find. He knew only that Denise was being treated for an eye injury.
They found her in bed in her room. The medical staff stepped out when they arrived, leaving the three to embrace, and to weep together in shock at the randomness of their tragedy: Jane grievously hurt. Martin gone. Henry almost without a scratch.
Denise had a thick bandage over her eye. The ball bearing, about a third of the size of her eye, had ruptured her eyeball and damaged her optic nerve, but she had escaped any brain damage. An out-of-town surgeon would fly back to Boston to repair her retina the next day, but no matter how much the doctors tried, she would never see again in that eye, not even shadows.
Bill and Denise had little time to dwell on their injuries, which seemed relatively trivial to them. Nor could they linger in sorrow. They had to rally for Jane, who remained in stable but critical condition. They had to comfort Henry, now noticeably withdrawn as relatives tried to engage him at the hospital.
Most concerning to them, at the moment, was where Martin was. A police sergeant had promised Denise, before she left Boylston Street, that his officers would remain with her son at all times. John and Father Sean were now conferring with police, and Bill told them he wanted to know as soon as his son was moved. They wouldn’t learn until later that his body remained on the street until well after midnight — roughly 12 hours — because the crime scene had to be documented in minute detail.
With others to stay with Denise and Henry at Beth Israel, Bill returned with Father Sean to find Jane in a recovery room at Children’s. She was unconscious, badly burned, and had a breathing tube in her mouth.
It was late now. The pastor said a prayer. Bill was exhausted and numb. He wanted to change and gather what they would need for the coming days, so John drove him home to Dorchester while Michelle stayed with Jane.
Inside the house, Bill was still carrying the backpack he had been wearing on the street. It was shredded by shrapnel. He began unpacking it in his kitchen, thinking, What the hell do I do with this? Do I ever want to see this again?
Then he removed his shirt, which still reeked of gunpowder, and dropped it and the backpack in the trash.
John went alone to Martin’s room and thought about the many Patriots and Bruins games they had watched together; Bill couldn’t join him. It would have been too much seeing his son’s flannel Celtics pajamas still on the bed, the comforter pulled up. He wanted to wait for Denise. He needed to stay focused on the moment.
Bill thought it might be the last time in a while he would be home, so he gathered clothes for Henry, underwear for Denise, and importantly, Doggy and Bunny, Henry and Jane’s beloved stuffed animals. They left the house and locked the door. Bill didn’t want to return until his family could come back together. It would be summer before anyone slept there again.
In the hours and days ahead, family and friends mobilized. Erin created a spreadsheet to schedule shifts to make sure someone would be at Jane’s bedside around the clock. Others helped them navigate the medical bureaucracy, take notes for them when Jane’s doctors visited, and entertain Henry with board games. They brought decent coffee and food to Bill and Denise, or, sometimes, just held their hands.
Jane, Martin, and Henry in 2012. The Richards were a family in constant motion, a whirlwind of pickups and drop-offs, sleepovers and birthday parties, homework, community projects, coaching, and church.
They also sought to protect them. At the hospital, John emptied nearby newspaper boxes so the Richards wouldn’t have to be reminded of the attack, and Erin once threw her body in front of someone trying to snap a picture of the family. With satellite trucks encamped near the Richards’ house and media from around the world clamoring for an interview, Larry Marchese, Bill’s college roommate and a public relations strategist, helped craft a statement and worked with a local public relations firm to plead with reporters and producers from every major network to respect the family’s privacy.
Twenty-four hours after the bombings, Bill’s leg began to throb. He knew he had to get the shrapnel out.
When Denise fell asleep that night at Beth Israel, and knowing someone was with Jane, he reluctantly submitted to going under general anesthesia so surgeons could remove the ball bearing in his shin. Still feeling an urgent need to remain alert, his anger flared and he began to yell as the doctors at Beth Israel began putting him under. They urged him to try to relax.
“Relax?” he howled as the drugs took hold. “My son is dead. How can I relax?”
Over the 10 days the Richards remained at Beth Israel, the doctors and nurses understood they were treating a couple who had suffered much more than physical wounds. They gave their entourage extra space, turned off TVs in the waiting room when they entered, and looked out for them in many other ways.
The orderly who brought Denise her food also offered hugs. A hospital social worker, who helped with a range of logistics, patiently heard them out as they groped with an uncertain future. Nurses cried as they combed out the blood matted in Denise’s singed hair. The hospital’s top doctors — one of whom brought them a book of poems — offered detailed explanations and set aside plenty of time to answer questions. On Bill’s 43d birthday, the staff brought a chocolate cake. Everyone on the floor signed his card.
A stream of public officials also came, including the governor and Michelle Obama. Later, Jane would refuse to believe that the first lady — one of her heroes, whom she had dressed up as the previous Halloween, wearing pretend patent leather heels and an Obama pin — had spent time stroking her hair and invited her to the White House.
That Friday, after the shootout in Watertown that led to the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the death of his brother Tamerlan, Police Commissioner Edward Davis and Superintendent-in-Chief Daniel Linskey came to the hospital to deliver the news. They were brimming with emotion, especially Linskey, who told the Richards that his nephew had played on Martin’s Little League team, the Rangers.
Bill and Denise weren’t following the news of the investigation, and didn’t really appreciate then the importance of it or the relevance to them. Neither were they bothered much when they learned shortly afterward that the surviving Tsarnaev had been brought to Beth Israel for treatment of his wounds.
They had other concerns, especially Martin’s funeral.
JESSICA RINALDI/GLOBE STAFF
A photo of Martin holding a sign he made for an antiviolence rally became his icon. Artist Dianne Nyitray-Kaericher made a sketch of the image for a calendar and sent it to the Richards.
John called in his tailor, who visited the hospital to fit Henry and Bill for new suits. His wife went to the Richards’ house to find a dress for Denise. An eye surgeon had an optician bring Denise a large selection of glasses, because she’d lost hers on Boylston Street and could barely see with her uninjured eye. The optician drove to Rhode Island to get the prescription done in time.
Father Sean offered Bill and Denise a selection of readings and songs and made many of the arrangements at the funeral home.
John did his best to keep the funeral secret. He hired a coach bus to pick up family and friends at a designated location and asked the driver to surrender his cellphone. He had the flowers delivered in an unmarked vehicle and made sure police escorted the family to the cemetery.
“It was the worst thing I ever had to do,” John would say later.
‘Where are we?” Jane asked groggily.
After two weeks in the intensive care unit at Children’s, she had begun the slow process of waking up from her drug-induced coma.
“We’re in the hospital,” her mom said.
Doctors had kept her in the coma to help spare her the pain of her injuries and the multiple surgeries to clean her wounds. With Denise now discharged from Beth Israel and Bill’s leg healing — some of his hearing had returned, though the ringing in his ears was getting worse — the Richards, including Henry, and a roster of relatives and neighbors took turns holding Jane’s hand and reading stories from her favorite books. Sometimes, she squeezed their fingers when they asked if she could hear them.
JESSICA RINALDI FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE
Denise comforted Jane as a video showing images of the 2013 race before the bombing played during a kick-off for Team MR8, the family’s Marathon team to honor Martin.
Her vital signs improved, and finally doctors began the long process of bringing her to consciousness.
They began by removing the breathing tube from her mouth. It produced spasms of nausea, which was brutal for Bill and Denise to watch. But she was now breathing on her own, a sign that her collapsed lung was healing.
Over the next 48 hours, Jane slipped in and out. She would open her eyes, look around, and fall asleep. Soon, she started singing along in a raspy voice to music they played on her iPod, everything from Taylor Swift to “The Sound of Music.”
Jane’s awakening brought new challenges. She grew restless and wanted to move. She became aware of the pain. When nurses changed the dressing of her many burns, it was agonizing. And then there were the inevitable questions.
“Where are we?”
“We’re in the hospital.”
“Do you remember being at the Marathon?” Denise would say.
“Do you remember what happened?”
Jane would think for awhile and give different answers. “I lost my leg,” she would say. “A man carried me to the ambulance.”
In the beginning, she would often drift off to sleep after that. But as she became increasingly alert, she followed up with more difficult questions.
Bill and Denise discussed with social workers how to describe what had happened. They settled on using the word “explosion.” But Jane understood, and there was no need for euphemisms.
“I remember a bomb going off,” she said.
Then came the hardest topic: “Where’s Martin?”
At first, her parents were vague.
Martin was hurt badly, they told her. The doctors tried to help him, but they couldn’t. He was hurt too badly.
Each time they had the conversation, it was like the first time. And then Jane would start sobbing all over again.
As concerned as everyone was about Jane, her injuries were plain to see. Henry, a reserved fifth-grader, was known as the quiet one before the attack. Now, Bill and Denise worried about their son, and what he carried inside.
For nearly two weeks he had been living at hospitals, shadowing his parents. Now, they decided, it would be best for him if he returned to school. Bill met with the principal and other administrators at Boston Collegiate Charter School, who offered to allow Henry to take breaks during the day or keep something on his desk to signal when he needed to step out.
But the Richards wanted him to have as normal a routine as possible. They didn’t want to call extra attention to him or to what had happened. So his teachers and friends were coached to keep it simple and say things like, “Good to have you back, Henry.”
A few weeks later, his parents even allowed Henry to spend three nights away — his first time at anything like a sleepaway camp — at The Farm School in Athol. A teacher on the trip texted the Richards updates and photos as Henry learned about life on a farm.
Henry seemed to be readjusting well, but his parents remained vigilant about potential triggers for the trauma he had experienced. They also worried how it affected him to see them cry, which they were increasingly prone to do, especially Bill.
For his part, Henry’s main concern seemed to be keeping up with his homework. Bill and Denise had to convince him that it was OK to put off some of his reading and math problems. His teachers cut him slack.
After they left Beth Israel, Bill and Henry began staying at a hotel beside Children’s, allowing Henry to spend more time with his sister, whom he insisted on seeing every day, even if she was asleep.
He continued to read her stories, caress her, try to make her laugh, and swab her chapped lips to keep them moist, even when her condition took a frightening turn for the worse.
Several days after she awoke from the coma, Jane’s white blood cell counts spiked and her temperature climbed to 102.
Her doctors found a fungus in her wounded leg, a potentially life-threatening development that sparked concerns it could spread to her bloodstream. To excise the infection, they began discussing a more aggressive amputation — to above the knee, but that would have meant significantly less mobility for Jane.
The next 10 days were harrowing.
The doctors added an antifungal medication to her already powerful drug regimen.They also brought in a special piece of equipment called a wound vacuum, which was rarely used outside military hospitals. Jane’s nurses had to learn how to operate it, and they once had to call tech support to ensure that the machine properly flushed her wounds.
There were more surgeries as doctors battled the infection, each lasting between two to three hours. But by the middle of May, the infection had retreated. Jane was gaining strength again.
She began to take more interest in the professional clowns who sometimes stopped by her room and sang her favorite songs. A music therapist used a keyboard to help her play simple songs, and she had more energy to devote to speech therapy to help her retrieve words she struggled to recall.
Jane also started to take notice of all the gifts filling her room that people had sent from around the world — teddy bears, quilts, chocolates, candy, toys, and a lot of Boston Strong paraphernalia.
Soon, she was well enough to get fresh air and accompanied her family and nurses to Prouty Garden, a peaceful patch of green between the hospital buildings where the Richards found some solace.
As Jane’s strength increased, so did her curiosity. She wanted to inspect Denise’s eye. When her mom took off her glasses, she said: “That’s too bad. I’m glad my eye is OK.” She also wondered whether Henry had any permanent injuries. When a nurse or tech stopped in, Jane would tell them about Martin, how she lost her leg, and that Denise couldn’t see. “My brother Henry only got some cuts,” she would say, “but was hurt in his heart.”
After 39 days at Children’s, Jane had survived 14 operations, the last of which included skin grafts from the sides of her thighs to cover her limb and prepare it for a prosthesis. There were other signs of recovery. Her hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, much of which had been burned, were growing back.
In her last days at the hospital, finally able to wear her own clothes again, Jane drew cheers when a physical therapist helped ease her off the side of her bed and she stood up for the first time. The next day, she took several steps while holding parallel bars, at the end high-fiving her reflection in a nearby mirror.
It was a sparkling morning in June, the day Martin would have turned 9.
Denise and Bill had decided to hold a memorial Mass at St. Ann’s for their son, which allowed them to thank many people at once for all the support. It was also a chance for Jane to say goodbye to her brother. They were so close that she wore his clothes, played baseball and basketball with him. They shared slushies and sometimes even danced together. She regarded him as the best dancer in the family.
For the first time in nearly two months, Jane would be outside a hospital and see a lot of friends and neighbors, many of whom longed to hug her.
Some 800 people packed the pews, while others stood where there was space. The children’s choir sang. Martin’s friends and Henry read from the liturgy. Police and public officials sat in the first rows, and there were prayers said for the bombing victims and first responders.
When Father Sean went to the pulpit to introduce Bill, the silence was thick.
Bill was comfortable speaking in public, but this was entirely different, especially after weeks of intensely guarding his family’s privacy. He asked Father Sean to stay near, in case he had to stop, in case he couldn’t hold it together.
With his hearing limited, Bill wasn’t sure, at first, if anyone could hear him, except Jane, who sat in her wheelchair beside the pulpit, making funny faces at her father. It was clear that whatever damage the bomb did, it had not changed her character, her sweet giddiness.
Bill spoke about how full of life Martin was, how much he enjoyed being with friends, how he was always willing to smooch his mom in public and tell his parents he loved them. He described how Martin always looked out for Jane, sometimes letting her win a game of 21 on the basketball court. Or how incredulous Martin was when Henry spent a day off from school reading a book.
He spoke of who his son might have become: a hockey goalie or mayor, a charmer and storyteller, a coach and a dad. Maybe even a marathon runner.
As cheated by fate as he felt, he spoke of how grateful he was for what they had left and for all the love from family and friends.
“We’re going to be OK,” he reassured the congregation, though he wasn’t quite ready to believe it.
GREGORY L. TRACY, THE PILOT
A SMILE PARTS THE CLOUDS: As Bill Richard stepped up to the pulpit during a memorial Mass for Martin in June, Jane made funny faces at her father while he spoke.
An ambulance brought Jane to the gleaming Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown. There, the Richards felt like they could breathe more easily, that the intensity of the previous weeks had begun to give way to something that, by comparison, felt almost normal.
SCOTT LAPIERRE / GLOBE STAFF
Jane dashed down the hallway of United Prosthetics in Dorchester, elated to learn that she would be getting a special prosthesis that could be used for running.
The cacophony of beeps and buzzers in intensive care was gone, and from the broad windows of Spaulding, they could watch sailboats glide across Boston Harbor.
Using a walker, Jane was now out of bed, spending hours in physical therapy and speech therapy and having meals with other young patients. There were arts and crafts projects with clay and putty, even an occasional party. She was eating ice cream every day to gain weight. It almost felt like camp.
But there was grueling work. She had to learn again how to get out of bed, brush her teeth, shower, dress, and use the bathroom — all with one leg.
Relieved of the necessity of always being at Jane’s bedside, Bill and Denise had time for themselves. Bill took walks around Jamaica Pond with his boss, who told him to take the year off and continued to pay his salary. So long focused on work, he now rented bicycles with Henry and brought him back to soccer, where his son scored his team’s first goal. It felt, as the ball hit the net, like a kind of divine intervention. And it eased one of Bill’s first outings back into the community. There were awkward encounters. Some acquaintances weren’t sure what to say to Bill and kept their distance; others came up and asked questions he wasn’t prepared to answer.
Denise took long walks along the waterfront and had lunch with friends and relatives who came to visit. She began reading again, using a Kindle to make the type larger. At one point, she even went for a run. As she loped across what seemed to be a straightforward, flat path, she missed seeing a low-hanging branch and smacked into it. She smarted at the pain but also chuckled at the slapstick randomness of it. It was a lesson in her new visual limitations, but also a reminder that her old quick-to-laugh self was still inside.
As Jane’s rehabilitation progressed, she drew strength from other people who had lost limbs, who showed her their prostheses and pictures of how they were able to swim, run, and play sports. She did relay races in her wheelchair with amputees from a veterans group. She also met other bombing survivors, several of whom were also receiving physical therapy at Spaulding. When she met Marc Fucarile, a 35-year-old roofer from Reading who lost his right leg on Boylston Street, Jane looked at him and said, “We’re the same.”
Summer neared, and the staff at Spaulding prepared Jane for her return home. The Richards began to spend more time together outside the hospital. At first, that meant getting smoothies at a nearby cafe. Then they all went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant near the hospital.
When Jane went to the bathroom, plodding with a walker and bandaged limb through the dinner crowd, Bill and Denise saw the stares and curious looks. Jane was already well known in Boston, and they understood their anonymity couldn’t last. There would be many times in the days ahead when strangers would offer well-wishes or prayers, and Jane would turn to her parents. “Who are they?” she would ask. “Why are they praying for us?”
After dinner that night, they went for ice cream. As they sat outside enjoying the warm evening, there was a sudden boom in the distance, a deep, percussive thud that sounded just like the first blast near the finish line. It was the USS Constitution, docked nearby, firing a cannon.
“Let’s go,” she told her parents. “I want to go.”
“It’s OK,” Denise said. “It’s done.”
“How do you know?” Jane asked.
Henry reassured her. “It’s just what they do.”
But the words seemed hollow, and they took Jane back to the hospital.
For one of their last outings before leaving Spaulding, the Richards received an invitation from city officials to visit the makeshift memorial to the attack in Copley Square, which had grown to become a global symbol of Boston’s ground zero.
It would mean a trip back to Boylston Street, well before they were prepared for it.
But the memorial was about to be dismantled for good, so they discussed it and decided to go as a family.
They went in an unmarked police car, eager to avoid the glare of the media, which was hovering on the perimeter. The officers, who had become close confidants after weeks of looking after the Richards, parked nearby and came up with a code word for Jane, in case she got nervous and wanted to leave.
They were greeted by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Davis, the police commissioner, who gave the children police pins. There were other survivors there, and Bill and Denise shared hugs and brief words with them.
But they weren’t in much of a mood to talk.
For more than an hour, they quietly absorbed what had become a shrine, with hundreds of running shoes tied to metal stanchions, Marathon medals, Mylar capes, bibs left on benches, mementos that ranged from rosary beads to police patches.
Jane wondered why anyone would leave their sneakers behind and thought they were there to find Martin’s shoes. Henry looked serious as he perused the hand-scrawled notes, posters, and other messages, some of which were left by friends and teachers they knew. But he found all the pictures of Martin disturbing. How, he wondered, did someone get a picture of his brother’s First Communion?
For a family averse to attention, it was a reminder of how invested the world was in their pain, and how far they were from being ready to cope with that.
TOGETHER ON THE PATH TO RECOVERY: The Richards brought Jane to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown. The change of scenery was a welcome relief from the many buzzers and beeps of intensive care.
PART TWO OF TWO
For Richard family, finding strength
It had been 10 weeks of hospitals and surgeries, of therapy and slow recovery, of fearful memories and inklings of hope. And now it was time for the Richards to go home. There was so much uncertainty ahead, but also so much they wanted to do, for others, for Martin.
BY DAVID ABEL | GLOBE STAFF | APRIL 14, 2014
They were leaving the hospitals after 10 grueling weeks, but Bill and Denise Richard worried whether they were prepared to look after their Jane, who continued to require so much care. They also fretted about how they would fill the downtime, without all the doting care and the regimented schedules of the hospitals.
Returning home also meant sleeping across the hall from Martin’s vacant room. Bill had never entered what had become, for them, hallowed space on any of his brief visits to the house. And it had begun to feel like his decision in April to return only when they all could be there had been a defense mechanism, a way of delaying the inevitable reckoning — that their family would never be the same.
When Jane had met all her rehabilitation goals, and her room at home had been redone to be more accessible, the staff at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital organized a farewell party. There were songs and tears and hugs. They would be leaving nurses who had become like family and a perch overlooking the water that had brought a measure of serenity.
On their way home in their Ford Explorer, the Richards stopped at the Ninety Nine in Charlestown, where the staff immediately recognized Jane, brought her an ice cream sundae, and refused to take the Richards’ money. Afterward, they picked up Henry, who had just come off a boat from fishing camp, and as they made their way back to Dorchester, Bill looked through the rearview mirror and began to feel the deep void in the back seat.
When they arrived at their 19th-century slate gray Colonial, which they had spent years refurbishing, they found their yard had been raked and mulched. Newly planted flowers were in full bloom and there were freshly potted plants, ceramic birdhouses, and a geranium on the back porch, hanging on a prop adorned with Jane, Martin, and Henry’s names. All courtesy of Bill’s colleagues at work. There was also a fresh coat of paint on the house and a new alarm system.
Bill carried Jane up the five granite steps of their front porch into the foyer, where nearly everything was as they had left it that morning in April. Martin’s bucket of baseballs, his glove and catcher’s equipment, his new baseball cleats and Reebok sneakers, all remained untouched. In the kitchen, Martin’s Red Sox backpack still hung a few feet from his now-famous heart-covered peace poster. Easter baskets remained on Martin’s desk and on the floor of Henry’s room, long after they should have been stowed away.
If Bill and Denise worried about sinking into a mire of gloom, Jane offered an antidote of levity.
When she saw her room, which had a new bed and bureau lower to the ground and fresh blue and yellow paint, she was ecstatic. She jumped up and down and hugged all her stuffed animals, except Bunny, who had been with her at the hospitals.
But there was a long way to go before they would feel at ease back in Dorchester. For one thing, they arrived shortly before the Fourth of July.
Bottle rockets. M-80s. The constant booms made them jittery and sleepless, triggering memories they longed to forget.
Summers for the Richards had often meant a trip to the house they shared with relatives in New Hampshire, where the kids swam and hiked and played. But the idea of returning there without Martin was too much.
They needed new memories.
Inspired by the boats they saw from Spaulding, they took up sailing on the Charles River. The kids learned how to rig a boat and how to hold the wind on a tack. It was a peaceful respite — most of the time. Denise’s lack of peripheral vision made it a challenge to keep track of swinging objects, and when she wasn’t looking once, the boom slammed into her head. She laughed it off.
The more time Henry and Jane spent together, the more they squabbled over trivial things, like who would hold the tiller on the boat or where they would sit in the back seat of the car. Bill and Denise had worried how they would get along without their brother as a buffer, but the tiffs reflected how Henry was starting to see past his sister’s wounds, marking the return of some normalcy.
RESUMING LIFE AT HOME: Inspired by the boats they saw from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, the family took up sailing.
Through the summer, Henry remained busy with various day camps and appeared to be coping well. But unexpected things sent him into a funk, such as when he discovered a text message that Martin had sent him early in the morning on April 15 had disappeared. At random times, he would look forlorn and tell his parents, “I miss Martin.”
Jane continued a regimen of potent drugs and adapted to the uneven floors at home, hopping around on crutches and ringing a bell at night if she needed to use the bathroom. She returned to Spaulding several times a week for physical therapy and went to Children’s Hospital every month for checkups.
At one appointment over the summer, doctors discovered a bone growth at the tip of her limb. It’s a common side effect of amputation, they said, but it also meant they might have to delay providing Jane a prosthesis for up to a year.
The news was disheartening for Bill and Denise, who were already struggling with the heaviness of their new lives. They were making regular visits to the mahogany, heart-embossed cross marking Martin’s grave, less than a mile from their home. They also began sitting in his room, which would remain untouched for the next year, the Red Sox and Bruins posters remaining on his door.
Bill avoided parks in the neighborhood where he and Martin used to play ball. Denise joked that everyone they knew, including their deli clerk, was getting therapy to deal with Martin’s death — except them. They were too busy, they said, too focused on other things.
JESSICA RINALDI/GLOBE STAFF
In time, the pace of life and activities resumed. Henry practiced relays with his track team at Joe Moakley Park in South Boston.
Bill, still in pain from an unsuccessful operation to repair his ruptured eardrums, continued to struggle making restaurant reservations for four and found himself instinctively grabbing five plates for dinner, having to put one back.
After a while, they were happy to see neighbors, but it wasn’t always comfortable. Some weren’t sure what to say to the Richards and felt strange talking about themselves, at times apologizing for carping about things that seemed so trivial by comparison, like a backache.
But Bill and Denise were buoyed by a steady flow of good will.
Friends brought meals; others left gifts. The community’s support was enormous. They received several million dollars raised for them directly and from the One Fund, the charity for Marathon bombing victims. The money was placed in trusts for Jane and Henry. There were gifts from celebrities. Taylor Swift sent a hand-painted guitar. Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins donated an autographed hockey stick. They received flags flown at half-staff on military bases in their honor. Someone even sent a bronze statue of Martin holding his peace poster.
Bill and Denise also began reading the thousands of letters from around the world, such as one that touched them deeply from a 9-year-old boy from Pittsburgh, who included a medal he won after playing a flag football game.
Upon returning home from Spaulding, Jane took stock of the many quilts she and her family received as gifts.
“I told my dad that I wanted to play the game for Martin,” the boy wrote in a careful cursive on notebook paper. “I ran for a touchdown, threw a touchdown pass, and had an interception for a touchdown. I told my coach after the game that I played it for Martin, and my coach gave me the game medal. I wanted to give it to you. I hope you like it.”
By August, they received good news. Jane’s orthopedist and prosthetist agreed they could build an artificial leg that would allow her to safely bear weight using her thigh, rather than her limb, where the skin remained raw.
Now Jane would be able to walk on two legs on her first day back at school, just as Bill and Denise had hoped.
After missing the last months of first grade, Jane couldn’t wait to get back to school. She was eager to see all her friends and teachers.
Shortly before classes resumed, Jane and Denise went to meet the principal. They discussed Jane’s schedule and whether she would need a personal aide.
By late August, she had spent several weeks learning how to walk on her new prosthesis, a clumsy, exhausting process. It amazed her parents to see her ambling about. Still, it was precarious going, and Jane took her share of spills. The prosthesis was difficult to use compared with the more sophisticated artificial leg she would get later. She had to be prodded to wear it.
When the first day of school arrived, Jane had little interest in the symbolism of the moment. She was more concerned with dressing up for the special occasion, which to her meant wearing a skirt. She never showed the slightest hint of self-consciousness about revealing her injured leg, which she called “Luvvy.”
It also meant leaving her prosthesis at home, because she wanted to wear her favorite red cowboy boots, which didn’t fit on the artificial leg. She would instead walk into school on her crutches, wearing just one cowboy boot.
Jane also wore a locket necklace with angel wings inside — to keep Martin close to her heart. Her teachers marveled at her resilience. But they would keep a close watch on her, as would Denise from the library, and Jane agreed to take what they called regular “brain breaks” throughout the day to rest or chat with a social worker.
Jane didn’t dwell on her limitations and even hoped to play soccer that fall. But her differences from the other kids became evident at recess, when at first she was only allowed to play on the swings, which she insisted on pushing as high as she could go. Denise had to warn her not to jump off.
As time passed, she began wearing her prosthesis to school and leaving the crutches at home. She even began to run, which started as a skip and then as a kind of gallop. By winter, she was back playing basketball and attending dance classes.
A diligent student, Jane kept up with her homework — practicing her handwriting and grammar — and even wrote poems. “Peace is a special feeling,” she scrawled in one titled “Peace.” “It is a wonderful feeling to have. If you have never had the feeling of peace, that’s too bad.”
She was so at ease with her plight that she performed a show-and-tell with her prosthesis, removing her sneaker to show classmates how she could paint the toenails. They asked her questions, especially the boys, and she patiently explained things like, yes, she could swim, and no, she couldn’t play soccer, at least not yet.
Jane brought a relief that few expected, but there were grief counselors for her brother’s friends at the start of school, as many of them still struggled with his absence.
Bill and Denise resisted efforts to make Jane into an emblem of resilience or of Boston Strong. Publicly celebrating her recovered vitality felt wrong, almost unseemly.
Even before they returned home, the Richards received offers to honor Jane, like many other survivors of the bombings.
During the Stanley Cup finals, the Bruins invited Jane to wave a flag on the ice before the sixth game. The crowd doubtlessly would have roared for her, the Richards knew, but it just wasn’t right. They couldn’t revel without Martin, who idolized the Bruins, regularly watched games with his dad, and would have given anything to stand on the ice.
Instead, with Jane’s cast decorated in the team’s colors, they quietly accepted an offer to slip into TD Garden with a police escort and watch the game from a suite with the arena’s CEO. When an image of their son unexpectedly appeared on the Jumbotron, Jane looked up and said, “Hey, there’s Martin’s picture!” Bill and Denise were taken aback.
A few months later, for the season opener at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots invited Jane to take the field for a pregame ovation with others wounded in the attack. But it was on a Thursday night, and Jane had school the next day. Bill and Denise also worried about exposing her to a national audience.
So Bill brought Henry. They entered the field through the player’s tunnel and planned to stay on the sidelines, expecting to remain anonymous, which was easy without Jane. Their first jolt came when the team took the field to an explosive fireworks display. Then, without any warning, Martin’s picture appeared on the Jumbotron, this time with an announcer saying his name before the large crowd. It was one of the first times Bill had heard Martin’s name spoken so publicly, and it caught him off guard. He and Henry held each other tight.
It was hard for the Richards to attend games without Martin, especially at Fenway Park.
But when the Red Sox reached the playoffs, the Richards decided to relent. The team asked Jane to appear with her youth choir to sing the national anthem before the second game of the American League Championship Series. As long as she wasn’t singled out, and the Red Sox didn’t alert the media in advance, they thought it would be fine.
Of course, Jane was unmistakable as soon as she walked on the field, and not just because of her leg. The team made “B Strong” shirts for all the kids in the choir, but Jane was wearing Martin’s Pedroia shirt and refused to change. So she took the field as the only singer in a jersey.
Somehow, she also ended up in front of the other kids, as if she were the lead singer. “What should we do?” Denise whispered to Bill, as they watched from the first base line, increasingly nervous.
Jane was liable to do anything. Denise worried she might start singing opera or the “Sun will come out tomorrow.”
Their police escort, jokingly, offered to cut the mike.
But Jane led the choir with poise, even playing a glockenspiel, and they left without anyone seeming to notice — until pictures cropped up later on Twitter and local websites.
As the holidays approached, they felt Martin’s absence even more.
The first challenge was getting through Halloween, which the kids always loved, particularly Martin, who was a glutton for candy, especially Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Bill and Denise weren’t eager to welcome a parade of kids to their door and wondered whether fewer might turn up, as some neighbors shied away from their house. But they put on what they described as their “happy faces” and doled out chocolate bars and lollipops so quickly that they ran out early. Jane and Henry, even if unintentionally, evoked Martin. She reprised her brother’s zombie costume from the year before and he wore Pedroia’s jersey, trick-or-treating as a bearded Red Sox player.
JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF
A RELUCTANT ICON, AN UNMISTAKABLE GIRL: The Richards resisted efforts to make Jane a symbol of resilience, but they agreed to a public appearance when the Red Sox asked Jane’s youth choir to sing the national anthem before a playoff game. As long as she wasn’t singled out, they thought it would be fine. Of course, Jane was unmistakable as soon as she walked on the field.
As Thanksgiving approached, the Richards struggled with whether to go to Bill’s sister’s house in Danvers, as they usually did. They worried their presence would be hard on everyone.
So they decided to change things up by starting the day with the annual turkey trot jog through Franklin Park. Denise pushed Jane in a wheelchair. With a few hundred yards left, Jane insisted on getting up and running, a feat that drew loud cheers from the crowd as she limped across the finish line into Bill’s arms.
Afterward, they drove up to Danvers and felt the tension almost immediately. The kids — especially Martin — would ordinarily spend the afternoon throwing a football and playing in the yard. Not this year. Everyone stayed inside. They also skipped their tradition of having everyone in the family say what they were thankful for.
Bill decided, this time, something had to be said. To clear the air before dinner, he raised a glass, looked at his family, and managed, somehow, to get out the words, “To Martin.”
As the cold returned, December loomed on the calendar. For years, they held a big party at their house on Christmas Eve, with neighbors and relatives stopping over for drinks, caroling, and gathering by their player piano to sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The kids often went to bed early, eager for Santa to come.
This year, they abandoned their traditions. Instead, they boarded a train for Washington, D.C. — they couldn’t fly because of the damage to Bill and Jane’s ears — and went to the White House, at the invitation of the Obamas. They were there for a holiday party and spent the afternoon walking through the West Wing and mingling, until the president and first lady arrived to greet everyone.
Afterward, they were escorted to the Map Room, where they met privately with the Obamas. The first lady asked Jane how she was feeling and complimented her on her navy bow dress and her pearls, which were another gift from Taylor Swift. They talked about school and sports, and Jane began playing with the chiffon dress worn by the first lady, who began stroking Jane’s hair, just as she did at the hospital.
When the president asked Jane what her favorite part of the White House was, she answered: “the decorations.”
The president joked in response: “I was up all night setting them up.”
Before they left, the Richards signed postcards to pledge acts of community service to honor the sacrifices of military families. Jane wrote that she promised to clean her room for 21 weeks, signing her postcard: “Be Safe. Peace. Love, Jane.”
When school vacation started, they left the city again. They found a room at a New Hampshire hotel they hadn’t been to before and brought a small plastic Christmas tree, which they decorated with their own ornaments.
In December, the Richards went to the White House at the invitation of the Obamas. Jane marveled at the holiday decorations; the president joked in response: “I was up all night setting them up.”
The change rattled the kids, who wondered whether they would have to leave Boston every year at Christmas. But Henry was appeased when he heard they would go skiing, and Jane perked up after her parents explained that Santa would visit the hotel, too.
Jane had asked Santa for a running leg, a special prosthesis with a springy hook for a foot, while Henry hoped for new track shoes and a running watch. Their wishes came true, though Jane would have to wait a while to get hers.
On Christmas Eve, they all dressed up, enjoyed a big meal at the hotel, and swapped stories about Martin.
For Bill and Denise, it was good to sit around and relax for the first time in months. It wasn’t until a few days later, after they returned home, that what they were trying to escape caught up with them, especially for Denise.
It was New Year’s Eve, when the Richards would often be on Boylston Street to watch the First Night parade. Denise was picking up sausages at the butcher shop for breakfast the next morning when she heard a few people talking about how they couldn’t wait for the end of 2013.
Their words struck a nerve. As awful as it was for her family, the idea of leaving 2013, of moving on to a new year, felt deeply unsettling.
It felt like leaving Martin behind.
In the oversized binders on the table in front of Bill and Denise were more than 250 applications, from 35 states and as far away as Asia, Europe, and South America, from people who wanted to run the Marathon in Martin’s honor. They came from a member of Congress, a Hollywood producer, a dozen CEOs, firefighters, nurses, teachers, students.
The applicants offered detailed answers to a long list of questions, some written by Henry and Jane. One mom wrote about how she ironed a patch on her 8-year-old son’s baseball uniform as a tribute to Martin. The Richards “should be going to [their son’s] Little League games, too,” she wrote. A father reflected on the pain he experienced after losing an 8-year-old cousin. “I saw what our family went through,” he wrote.
After all the money collected from lemonade stands and step dancing troupes, all the gift baskets and notes left on their porch, all the random acts of kindness that came their way, Bill and Denise learned how much giving could be a source of healing.
With the Marathon only a few months away, they decided it was the optimal time to launch their foundation. The Boston Athletic Association had offered them a host of valuable charity bibs, which would help them raise a significant amount of money. It was an opportunity they felt they couldn’t pass up, even if it meant dredging up deep emotions.
They had already met with lawyers and drawn up the documents, built a website, and found help to start the team. Their mission, refined since the meeting in their dining room a few months before, was to honor Martin by supporting the things he loved: sports, education, and the community.
At the end of January, the Richards and their inner circle of John, Erin, and Larry met at a Hyatt in Braintree with their new team manager, Susan Hurley, a former Patriots cheerleader who helped charities raise money for the Marathon.
As they flipped through the hefty binders, Denise and Bill emphasized they weren’t looking for who could raise the most money; they wanted runners who would make the best ambassadors for the foundation.
After several hours of debate, they nixed applications that focused too much on defying the terrorists and others that seemed self-serving. They grew tired of reading about “that poor family.” They wanted their 50 bibs — which were hard to come by — to go to those who clearly felt compelled to run in Martin’s honor. Sincerity was a deciding factor.
“If they don’t know Martin’s story, forget it,” Larry said.
Bill added: “You can tell who was denied elsewhere.”
Eventually, they would choose more than a dozen runners from Dorchester and others from 15 states, including wounded veterans and first responders. The team would eventually grow to 100 runners, among the Marathon’s largest.
JESSICA RINALDI/GLOBE STAFF
A MOMENT OF QUIET AMID A WHIRLWIND: The house was alive with activity as the Richards began setting up their foundation, which provided a welcome distraction. But they worried about when things quieted down.
Two weeks later, the Richards mustered the will to throw a party for their team, which they held at the State Street Pavilion overlooking the field at Fenway Park. Many of the out-of-state runners flew in. A number of VIPs attended.
It was an uncomfortably public moment for them, and the kids, as they found themselves accepting condolences in something like a receiving line. But they accepted it as something they had to do for the foundation. They had support from friends and family, including Father Sean, who began the evening by reading a prayer about peace and telling the team what it took for the Richards to join them.
“Where there is horror and darkness in the world, you teach us to turn to the light,” he said. “You teach us to draw close to the light and to push away the darkness — in fact, to conquer it. That’s why we’re here tonight.”
Mayor Martin J. Walsh, a neighbor who had known the family for years, was there and showed the team a bracelet he had been wearing in Martin’s honor for months and thanked the Richards. “You lift up the whole city,” he said. “This is what Boston needs.”
When Bill finally stepped to the podium, he spoke through tears. “We knew that we would do something to honor Martin, but it never occurred to us that we’d be here tonight, so soon, even before the first anniversary,” he said.
He explained why they started the foundation: “It became clear to us over the last few months that we would not run from the [Marathon] but embrace it to help us heal, to honor my son and his message, and to pay it forward.”
He ended by recalling that day on Boylston Street, when Martin asked his parents how old he had to be to run the Marathon, and how he had promised one of his teachers he would run with her when he was old enough. That teacher was on the team, too.
Bill urged the runners to think about Martin as they trudged up Heartbreak Hill and to whoop it up in his honor when they crossed the finish line.
“His first marathon is yours,” he told them.
The following months were a whirlwind of supporting the team and ordering gear, monitoring the fund-raising, and securing sponsors. Overseeing the foundation had become something of a full-time job for them — Bill remained on leave and Denise was working part time — but they had many other concerns.
Jane still had regular medical appointments and was recovering from yet another operation — her 15th — to close the perforations in her right eardrum. She would require additional surgeries over the years to manage the growth of her limb.
Henry suffered a blow when his beloved betta fish Hank — who survived their long absence from home with the help of neighbors — bellied up one day in the kitchen. But he took the loss much better than his parents expected and used the occasion to prod them for something he wanted deeply.
“Now can I get a dog?” he pleaded. The answer was no, and remained so even after Jane promised to walk it every day and wash the dishes for three weeks.
The strain of it all sometimes got to Denise, who managed her stress with long walks. It was hard having to rely on friends and Bill to take her anywhere from the hairdresser to the supermarket. One day, when her frustration peaked, she grabbed her keys and tried to drive off in her Volvo station wagon. But, perhaps fortunately, the battery was dead.
Nearly a year later, after a second operation to repair his damaged left eardrum, Bill’s hearing had improved slightly but the ringing had become intolerable. He was managing it now through medication and meditation, but the tinnitus would still occasionally surge.
It wasn’t all gloom.
In February, they celebrated when Henry turned 12, even though they had to talk him out of taking a polar plunge off Tenean Beach, as he did after New Year’s. For Jane’s eighth birthday, which was on Valentine’s Day, they hosted a gingerbread-making party at a nearby bakery, which had raised thousands of dollars for the Richards by selling peace cookies in Martin’s honor.
A month later, the Richards drove to United Prosthetics, a century-old family business in Dorchester, where Jane took her first bouncy steps on her new running leg. She was ecstatic and wore it to school. She didn’t want to take the “cheetah” leg off. “It’s like giving a kid a driver’s license,” her prosthetist said, warning her to go easy.
SCOTT LAPIERRE/GLOBE STAFF
Jane, meanwhile, exulted in her new prosthesis that would offer her the ability to run. She hugged Gary Martino of United Prosthetics, who had helped fit and adjust it.
Perhaps the best news came soon afterward, when the Richards logged on to a city website and learned that Henry had been accepted to Boston Latin School, which was like getting into Harvard for a sixth grader in the public schools. He was one of only about 500 students in the city to receive such an honor.
To congratulate him, Jane drew balloons on signs she posted around the house, which read: “Good Job Henry!”
They began some long-pondered renovations to their house, creating an office for the foundation on the third floor and refurbishing the basement into a playroom.
All the activity provided a distraction, which they welcomed, even though it raised concerns about what would happen when things quieted down. “I worry about when the music stops,” Bill said.
Still, there was the inescapable weight, dark thoughts that continued to gnaw.
When Bill needed relief, he would head upstairs to the sitting room, light a cedar pine candle, and meditate, concentrating on his breathing.
He would focus on the moment — the present — to banish the memories that still came out of nowhere, even if they didn’t hit him every few minutes, as they did in the beginning. Then he would begin reciting the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis.
He’d say it again and again.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon . . .
The sound of the second bomb was different than the deep thud of the first. It was higher-pitched and earsplitting. Suddenly, everything had slowed down and there was a deafening silence.
Bill was blown into the street and staggered as blood dripped from his legs. In a fog, he peered into the smoke and thought: What happened? Where is everyone? Where is my family? Denise had been knocked to the ground, beneath a pile of people, and felt a wetness trickling from her right eye.
Henry was holding his head, saying, “Mama, my head. My ears.”
She tried to calm him, still unsure of what just happened. “It’s OK,” she said. “We’re going to go now.”
Then he looked at her. “Mama, your eye!”
Denise turned around and saw Martin. He was lying on the sidewalk. Strangers were trying to help him. They were bringing ice from a nearby restaurant. They were flagging down paramedics, who arrived quickly but found that his pulse had vanished from everywhere but his neck.
Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, joy . . .
Denise knelt by Martin while Henry brought Bill to Jane, who was in shock and clearly suffering. Her hair was burned so badly that she looked like a boy. Bill carried her across the street, where a man took off his belt and wrapped it around Jane’s leg.
Bill pulled Henry close to him, trying to shield him.
“Is this really happening?” Henry asked.
With others helping Jane, Bill began to search for Denise and found her beside Martin. He looked at his son, who was more like him than anyone else in the world, and knew right away.
For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Bill and Denise knew little about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was accused of dropping a backpack on the ground a few feet from Martin. They didn’t even know how to pronounce his name, and preferred it that way.
They had no energy to waste on anger, they said, and spent little time thinking about who or why anyone would do such a thing. They knew, in the end, there was no rational explanation.
They told Henry and Jane that they shouldn’t be worried about anyone else trying to attack them. They weren’t targeted specifically, they explained; it was just happenstance. They were standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Richards had mixed feelings about attending the trial. “The sooner it’s over, the better,” Denise said. “The longer it drags out, the worse it is for our family.”
Bill added: “I don’t have interest in being there. But if we were given any indication that our testimony or presence was necessary, we’d be all in. Until we’re given that, we’re moving forward.”
Their main concern had already been put to rest. The suspects no longer posed a threat.
“I’m not sure where we’d be emotionally now if these two guys weren’t caught,” he said.
As April approached, administrators at Jane’s school decided to mark the anniversary by having the students do service projects. Jane’s teacher asked whether she would take a leadership role in the second grade, and she was flattered.
“I’ve always wanted to be a leader,” she said.
So she stood before her class and explained how something scary happened last year, how a lot of people were injured. “As you know, my family was there,” she said, “and I got hurt.”
In honor of Martin, she said they would make hers a peace project. At home that night, after finishing her homework and with her new mission in mind, Jane went to the cellar door in the kitchen, where Martin’s peace poster was still hanging. It had the word “love” written twice on it now, and there were more hearts and peace symbols, reflecting her brother’s finished work.
Jane looked at it and thought it would make an excellent prop for her new project. So she took it off the wall, folded it up, and packed it in her backpack.
When she told her mother later, matter-of-factly, that she was taking Martin’s poster to school the next day, Denise was floored. She explained to her daughter it would be better to leave it at home and took it back for safekeeping. The poster had become her son’s emblem, the core of the family’s fledging foundation, perhaps the ultimate symbol of the tragedy of the bombings.
Still, Bill and Denise remained wary of the relentless focus on them.
In the weeks before the Marathon, with officials expecting record crowds to line the course in a show of defiance, everyone seemed to want to know what they would do.
With a team of 100 runners who had raised more than $850,000 by early April for their foundation, they had a lot invested. There were many people to cheer for, many to thank.
At the least, the Richards planned to take part in the city’s tribute on the anniversary of the attack, six days before the Marathon. That would mean a trip back to Boylston Street, under police escort, perhaps the closest they would come to where they were standing that day.
They would also field a separate team of 150 runners — their junior varsity squad — to take part in the BAA’s annual 5K that Saturday. That would mean Bill, Denise, Henry, and possibly Jane, as well as many of their relatives and friends, would join thousands of others running the final leg of the Marathon, making the famous right on Hereford and left on Boylston, across the finish line.
Afterward, they planned to join other bombing survivors for a tribute run around Boston Common, and then have the kids take part in the same relay race on Boylston Street they had competed in in previous years, with Martin.
Jane, however, had experienced a recent setback. Her parents found blisters on her limb, requiring her prosthetist to make adjustments to her artificial legs. So she was back on crutches and using a wheelchair.
They wouldn’t prod her to play a role.
“She will only do it if it feels right,” Bill said. “We wouldn’t put her out there as a statement.”
The day before the race would be Easter, a time for reflection and spiritual renewal.
What would come next for them, they didn’t know.
They would wait for the right moment to decide. Whatever they did, they said, it would be with the kids. All three of them.
A CHANGE OF PLACE AND PACE: The Richards walked along Truro’s shore in August. The summer routine, often a trip to New Hampshire, took on a different meaning without Martin. They needed new memories.